James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.Matthew 28:1-20
Perhaps the most important comment we can make on this chapter will be the order of the ten events on the day of which it speaks.
1. The three women, Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James; and Salome, start for the sepulcher, followed by other women bearing spices.
2. These find the stone rolled away and Mary Magdalene, goes to tell the disciples (Luke 23:55 to Luke 24:9; John 20:1-2).
3. Mary, the mother of James, draws near the tomb and discovers the angel (Matthew 28:2).
4. She returns to meet the other women bearing the spices.
5. Peter and John arrive, look in and go away.
6. Mary Magdalene returns, sees the two angels and Jesus (John 20:11-18).
7. She goes to tell the disciples.
8. Mary, the mother of James, returns with the other women, all of whom see the two angels (Luke 24:4-5; Mark 15:15).
9. They receive the angel’s message.
10. While seeking the disciples they are met by Jesus (Matthew 28:8-10).
Another comment of interest is the order of the appearances of Jesus on this day:
1. To Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-18), 2. To the women returning from the tomb with the angel’s message (Matthews 28:8-10), 3. To Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5), 4. To the two on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31), 5. To the apostles (minus Thomas) (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-24).
In dividing the chapter we have (1) the narrative of the resurrection with the appearance of Jesus to the women (Matthew 28:1-10); (2) the false invention of the Jews (Matthew 28:11-15); and (3) the gathering in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20).
We can only touch upon the most important things, one of which is Christ’s reference to His disciples as His “brethren” (Matthew 28:10). For the first time does he use that word in such connection, showing that until His death and resurrection on their behalf the relationship had not become possible. (Compare Psalm 22:22 and Hebrews 2:11-12.) Another important thing is Matthew 28:13, “Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept.” We give excerpts from Gaebelein on this verse:
The watch recover from their fright, and some hasten to the city. Surely something happened or why should they leave their post to make a report? Then it is strange they went to the priests first and not the Roman governor. This was an irregular proceeding, from which we conclude that what they had to report was of greater importance for the priests than Pilate. Who knows but these priests had instructed the guard that if He should come forth they were to come to them first of all? Their report was a witness of the resurrection and that the tomb was empty.
The Sanhedrin was hastily summoned to receive the report in an official way. The straightforward statement, as men of military training are apt to report, made doubt about veracity impossible. To impeach them would have been insane. But what would happen if this truth got out among the people?
The resurrection must be denied which could only be by inventing a lie. The only possible lie was that His disciples stole the body. The story is incredible. It is easier to believe He arose from the dead than to believe what the Jews invented about His resurrection. The disciples had forgotten about the resurrection promised and they were a scattered, poor, timid lot of people. But even if they had been anxious to steal the body, how could they have done it? Here was the company of armed men. Then there was the sealed, heavy stone.
But the ridiculous side of the lie came out with the report the soldiers were to circulate. The disciples came and stole the body, while they were sleeping! It is incredible that all these men had fallen asleep at the same time, and so fast asleep that the commotion of rolling away the stone and the carrying away of the dead did not disturb them. Furthermore, sleeping at a post meant death for the Roman soldier. One might have nodded and risked his life, but that all slept is an impossibility. But the report is foolish; they were asleep and while asleep witnessed how the disciples stole the body of Jesus! It was a miserable lie, and is continued to the present day.
We might mention here the testimony of Josephus, who says in his Antiquities, ‘He appeared to them alive on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him.”
A third matter of importance is the Great Commission as it is called (Matthew 28:19-20). Note the word “Name” as indicative of the Trinity. It is not names but “Name.” Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the final name of the one true God. The conjunction in one name of the three affirms equality and oneness of substance. Note the peculiarity of the terms. This is the Kingdom commission, as another expresses it, not the Christian commission. The latter is in Luke, distinctively the Gentile Gospel, but not here, which is distinctively the Jewish Gospel. And this is all the more remarkable because in Luke, the disciples are commanded to go to the Jews (24:47), while here they are commanded to go to “all nations.” It points to the close of the age when the commission will be carried out by the faithful remnant of the Jews so often spoken about. It has not yet been carried out. The story of the Acts is not its fulfillment. Its accomplishment has been interrupted, but will be taken up before the Lord comes to deliver Israel at the last.
1. Repeat the order of the events on the day or resurrection.
2. Do the same with reference to the appearance of Jesus.
3. Divide the chapter into three parts.
4. How would you answer the argument that the disciples stole the body of Jesus?
5. What is the significance of the word “Name” in the Great Commission?
6. How do you distinguish the commission in Matthew from that in Luke?